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Adopting Self-Service Technology to Do More with Less - Essay Example

This paper seeks to use a service- nominate logic lens to gain fresh insight into the consumer experience of SST. In particular, it aims to consider the resources that are integrated when consumers use Sets, their copulation role and what might constitute value. Design/methodology/ approach – The paper presents findings from 24 semi-structured interviews that focus on the everyday experiences of consumers In using SST. Both genders and all socio-economic categories within all adult age groups from 18 to 65 p were Included.

Findings -? There Is a danger that organizations embrace SST as an economic and efficient mechanism to “co;create” value with consumers when they are merely shifting responsibility for service production. The paper identifies risks when customers become partial employees and concludes that customers should perceive the value they gain from using SST to be at least commensurate with their co- production role. Research limitations/implications – The qualitative study was confined to the consumer perspective.

Future research within organizations and among employees who support consumers using SST would extend understanding, as would research within the business-to-business (828) context. Quantitative studies could measure the frequency and extent of the phenomena the authors report and assist with market segmentation strategies. Practical Implications – The application of service-dominant logic highlights potential risks and managerial challenges as self-service, and consequent value co-creation, relies on the operant resources of customers, who lack the tacit knowledge of employees and are less easy to manage.

There is also the need to manage a new employee role: “self-service education, support and recovery”. Originality/value – The paper draws attention to managerial challenges for organizations to ensure that SST adoption enhances and does not destroy value. Additionally, it highlights the importance of distinguishing between co-production and co-creation. Keywords Self-service technology, Service- dominant logic, C-production, Co-creation operant resources, Resource integration, Self-service, Customer services quality Paper type Research paper An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article.

As businesses emerge from the global recession there is much talk about the need or organizations (in both the public and private sectors) to “do more with less”. Many might say that organizations adopt self-service technology (SST) precisely to achieve more with less as customers interact with machines, undertaking tasks previously performed by service employees and transforming the customer role from essentially passive to active. However, the service-dominant logic lens reveals a potential danger.

Organizations might embrace SST as an efficient mechanism to co-create value with customers when in fact they are merely shifting responsibility for service reduction to their customers. We define SST as technologies, The current issue and full text archive of this Journal is available at www. Nearsightedly. Com/ 0887-6045. HTML Journal of Services Marketing 27/1 (2013) 3-12 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [SINS 0887-6045] [DOI 10. 1108/08876041311296338] provided by an organization, specifically to enable customers to engage in self- service behaviors.

In many cases this will involve customers performing tasks that were previously undertaken by the employees of the organization. The automatic teller machine (ATM) has been with us for many years. Other more recent additions include self-serve checkouts in supermarkets, self check-in at airports and silver petrol pumps. However, it is the internet and the commercial development of the world wide web that have really accelerated the trend towards self-service.

It is this development that makes it possible for organizations to dramatically increase the number of customers without the need for a commensurate increase in staff operating costs, and/or the cost of increasing the number of physical operating sites. Sets can be accessed by customers “in situ’ within the operating sites of organizations, as in self-serve checkouts or self-check-in, or remotely, through the internet. However, the increasing use of SST is changing the nature and scope of the customer input into service provision in ways that might impact upon their perception of the whole service experience.

In a very real sense, the customer experience changes from one of co-creation with service employees to one where customers might consider that they are effectively producing the service for themselves. The role of technology in facilitating the growth in selective provision has led to a greater need to integrate IT and 3 Adopting self-service technology to do more with less Toni Hilton, Tim Hughes, De Little and Ebb Miranda Journal of Services Marketing Volume 27 ; Number 1 ; 2013 ; 3-12 engineering perspectives when designing modern services.

Consequently, there is a danger that a fundamental shift in thought is taking place that conceptualizes service as a field of study that integrates knowledge from information technology and engineering without the need to understand the perspective of people (employees as services. A recent, widely reported, survey by a customer watchdog organization in he I-J, Passenger Focus, highlights the difficulties facing SST designers seeking to replicate the face-to-face service experience.

The following quotes were taken from the BBC news website[l]: Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said ticket machines were particularly daunting for passengers catching a train for the first time, or those “buying a different type of ticket from their normal one”. “This stress adds unnecessary pressure to buying a ticket,” he added. “However, many passengers who buy a particular ticket often, or use a familiar ticket machine, may have less ruble”Ticket machines can present bewildering Jargon, a barrage of information and choices, as well as incomplete information about ticket restrictions,” added Mr. Smith.

This paper adopts the discourse of service dominant logic (SD logic) as a conceptual framework, and lens, to consider how self-service technology (SST) might enable organizations to do more for less. We then draw upon findings from a qualitative research study among UK customers to identify the managerial challenges when adopting SST. Additionally, this paper contributes to the current debate around the relationship between co-production and co-creation. Service-dominant logic and self-service Three key themes of S-D logic provide the framework for this discussion: 1 value co- creation; 2 co-production; and 3 resource integration.

The foundational premises (FPs; Fargo and Lush, 2008) provide a specific interpretation of value co-creation, clearly located within a relativist ontology (Balletomane et al. , 2011) and therefore context- and person-specific: value is “always uniquely and phenomenological determined by the beneficiary’ (POI). Furthermore, the point at which the customer determines value is when using, consuming or experiencing the product or service. As such, “value in use” suggests that value is a perception of the service outcome.

The “customer is always a co-creator” (FOP) because (authors’ italics) “the enterprise cannot deliver value, but only offer value propositions” (FOP). Furthermore, “all social and economic actors are resource integrators” (FOP). Value is transformed from a proposition into a perception by the customer when all resources are integrated through customer use, consumption or experience, and is therefore “value-minus”. S- D logic conceptualizes the customer as an active resource integrator in a value co- creation process. Balletomane et al. 2011) note that some academics have interpreted co-creation to mean the involvement of customers in the creation or delivery of products or services. Fargo and Lush prefer co-production as a descriptor for customer involvement in the production of products or services. Indeed, when modifying their foundational premises (FPs), Fargo and Lush (2008) have been careful to emphasize that the customer is always a co-creator of value [FOP], but may or may not be a co-producer: “involvement in co-production is 4 optional and can vary from none at all to extensive copulation activities by the customer of user” (Fargo and Lush, 2008, p. ). Co-production is a component of active in doing something to achieve the desired outcome. Co-production is therefore a continuum. Another important element within S-D logic is the concept of resource integration. Fargo and Lush (2004) distinguish between two types of resources that fugue in creating value. Neither type of resource has inherent value, but offers value potential that may be realized through integration with other resources. Operand resources, such as raw materials, are “resources on which an operation or act is performed to produce an effect” (Fargo and Lush, 2004, p. . This type of resource is usually tangible, inert and passive, requiring input from an active agent in order to realize its value potential (Arnold et al. , 2006; Lush et al. , 2008). In contrast, operant resources are those that are employed to act on operand resources and on other operant resources in order to create value. These are usually intangible resources such as knowledge, skills and labor (Fargo and Lush, 2004; Arnold et al. , 2006). SST meets the definition of an operand resource because it requires the application of customer operant resources to create value.

It is the provision of this operand source (SST) that enables organizations to replace the operant resources of their employees with the more widely available and potentially less costly operant resource of their customers. Fargo and Lush (2004) consider operant resources to be the fundamental source of competitive advantage (FOP). If the knowledge, skills, expertise, and time that people bring are the primary sources of competitive advantage available to organizations, the increasing reliance upon the operant resources of customers to achieve that advantage warrants further consideration by academics and managers.

That co-creation is a given while the degree of production will vary is what makes the relationship between the two concepts an interesting aspect of S-D logic, particularly in the context of SST. In using SST the degree of customer co-production is increased through the transfer of task- performance from employee to customer. This transforms the customer role into a “partial employee” (Baron et al. , 2009, p. 49; Bitter et al. , 1997). This transformation led us to examine the relationship between copulation and co-creation of value.

What, if any, effect does increasing the customer co-production role (as happens with SST) have on the co-creation of value? It is important to understand this relationship if organizations introduce SST to achieve more with less. We are particularly interested in ensuring that co-production does not negatively influence the co- creation of value. If co-production relates to task-performance within the service process, then it must also be synonymous with resource integration, in that the tasks performed by the actors are achieved by drawing upon their resources.

Value creation must arise from the customer perception of the value achieved through the resource integration (co-production) process. Figure 1 demonstrates customer alee perception arising from the co-production experience that integrates the resources of the customer with that of the organization: value co-creation is the perceptual outcome of resource integration. Figure 1 Model of value co-creation The existing literature on SST focuses very much on the reasons for customer acceptance or lack of acceptance of technology.

Individuals will vary in their enthusiasm and ability in using technology (Davis, 1989; Bitter et al. , 2002; Muter et al. , 2003; Salomon et al. , 2006). This is challenging for organizations seeking to introduce SST for a wide range of their customers. Inexperience in using technology (Gilbert et al. , 2004), lack of functional skills in using technology Sashimi and Unranked, 2006), and preference for person-to-person interactions (Simon and Sunnier, 2007) will limit customer use of SST.

Gender and age have often been seen as important determinants of the acceptance of technology (Landward et al. , 1981; Geothermal and Giggly, 1987; Mouthing and Curry, 1994; Elliott and Hall, 2005). Other social and psychological factors, such as the need for self-control (Battens, 1985) and social anxiety (Deborah and Baggage, 2002) have also been identified as being significant. Acceptance will vary according to the features of the interface provided by the technology. Speed, control, reliability and ease of use are consistently found to be important by users (Muter et al. 2000; Deborah et al. , 2003; Shamanic et al. , 2008). Fun is also mentioned extensively in the literature in relation to usage of the interface (Deborah and Baggage, 2002; Deborah et al. , 2003; Curran and Muter, 2007). In addition, preparedness to use SST varies according to the perceived benefits from usage (Bitter et al. , 2002). The benefits may relate to speed and convenience: he ability to get something done quickly or at anytime of the day or week (Muter et al. , 2000), or to save time (Ding et al. , 2007), or to save money (Ding et al. 2007). S-D logic provides a new lens with which to view the customer experience of using SST. It puts a focus on the role that the customer plays as co-producer in the process. It highlights resource integration, as the means through which value is co-created and, in particular, making the distinction between the application of operant and operand resources. This distinction is especially important in relation to SST in terms of the implications of the movement of the operant resource away from the supplying organization’s staff towards its customers.

Method We report findings from 24 qualitative interviews that took place in England during 2010. Four researchers participated in the study to ensure maximum coverage of the target respondent groups. Table I provides a template of the age and socio-economic groups covered. Fourteen females and ten males were interviewed in relatively equal numbers across the four age groupings. However, the researchers found it difficult to reach respondents within the lowest socio-economic grouping (DE).

Acknowledging the relativist ontology inherent within the S-D logic interpretation of value, we support the use of approaches that focus on the everyday experiences of consumers, as proposed by Baron et al. (2010). They argue that adopting a service- dominant logic lens “brings with it a requirement to adopt marketing research co-creation of the value of marketing research” (p. 255) and focuses “on experiences that are part of the everyday life of consumers, and how consumers use and integrate their operant resources in order to maximize the benefits accruing from these experiences” (p. 255).

Given that the study sought to understand a relatively new and complex phenomenon where different views are likely to exist a critical realist paradigm was adopted (Van De Even, 2007). This wildebeest’s research paradigm (Cuba and Lincoln, 1994) allows for the independent existence of the social dimension (Image, 1985), and accepts imperfections of understanding in a complicated world (Tattoos, 1989; Godlier and Hill, 1995). Within this paradigm, in- depth interviewing is considered to be a very suitable method for exploring a social phenomenon (Healy and Perry, 2000) and is consistent with the position if Baron et al. 010). The data collection, coding, sorting and analysis were carefully controlled (Miles and Huber, 1989) throughout. The interviews were coordinated and conducted in accordance with research protocols and processes agreed among the research team to ensure dependable and conformable findings (Lincoln and Cuba, 1985). A semi-structured interview guide was developed to encourage the interviewees to talk about their experience in using or failing to use SST, while ensuring that each interview covered common ground relating to the research objectives.

Using the guide, the interviewer started by asking the interviewee to iscuss their confidence, knowledge and feelings in using SST in general. The interview then moved on to cover the different types of SST used by the interviewee. Then the interviewee was encouraged to reflect, in some depth, on specific experiences of using SST. Finally, the interview covered examples of Sets that were available to the interviewee, but not used. All interviews were conducted face-to-face, recorded and transcribed.

The software Novo was used to analyze the interview transcripts. The coding was derived from the themes that emerged from the transcripts of the interviews. In conducting this analysis, the four researchers Jointly coded an initial sample of the interviews to gain a common understanding of the emerging themes. Each researcher then coded an equal share of interviews. Once all the interviews were coded, each researcher reviewed a print out showing all the coded material under each theme and amendments were made, as necessary, to ensure consistency.

While several broad themes, such as value and operant resources, were anticipated from the literature other themes and sub-themes emerged during the coding and analysis processes. This demonstrates the usefulness of the S-D logic lens, and of in-depth interviews, focusing on consumer experiences, to provide situated understanding and insights. It is these sub-themes, or categories, within the broader categories, such as operant resources, that provide insight into the management challenges for organizations adopting SST.

Age 18-29 M, F MEME F 7 30-44 F FEE MEME FIEF 6 45-64 M, F FEE F 565 1 MEME FEE F F 6 Total in each socio-economic group 9 9 6 Socio-economic group ABA CICS DE Total in age group Findings The key findings related to value, operant and operand resources of both parties and the resource integration process are reported below. Value Where SST enhances value it is liked by customers: when the service is faster, more convenient, cheaper or results in a unique offering unavailable through another route and where staff are used more effectively to support customers rather than being replaced by the . s far as the doctor’s receptionist is concerned it does actually save time SST. Because when you went to say you were available for your appointment the doctor’s receptionist was Juggling with making appointments, and people phoning up, and sometimes you’d stand at the window for 5 or 10 minutes waiting for her to finish by which time your appointment time had probably elapsed (Female, ABA, 65 p ).

It [on- line banking] makes you to know when you get paid. I don’t have to wait for the bank statement now. I go online straight away and see the transaction (Male, D, 30-44).. If it gives them time to do more important things, like the doctor’s receptionist, then it’s fair enough. If it’s simply cutting down on staff then I’m not so certain that it’s a good thing (Female, ABA, 65 p ). Perhaps the supermarket check-out … F they don’t have them there perhaps they can put them counting stock or whatever so, I guess, minimizing the amount of staff they are using but putting them on different things or perhaps using in different areas of the store or perhaps helping out in customer services by, people being around to help customers that can’t find certain products or whatever, improving customer service in that way (Female, ABA, 18-29). There also remains a big question in customers’ minds, even suspicion, regarding the ability of SST to achieve the “best price” and provide appropriate information without the intervention of a knowledgeable employee.

I wonder whether the ticket machine, here must be a button to press for “granny travel card” but when I ask at the kiosk for a London travel card with a granny ticket please, they know what I want. I imagine there must be a button to press for different travel cards but … For example, when I went up yesterday, even though there was a board with the train details, I still asked and he was able to tell me that there had been a delay and there was one waiting at platform 1 sitting there. Obviously the ticket machine wasn’t going to tell me (Female, CLC CA, 65 ).

Whereas if you go into the ticket office more often than not they will find oh the best deal (Male, ABA, 18-29)…. For example, when I go online you miss out on the expertise of the other salesperson and if it is a product you are not very knowledgeable about you’re less likely to buy it online (Male, ABA, 18-29). There is widespread exasperation when SST fails and customers need help. While all respondents provided examples of SST failure several had internalized very strong that value associated with SST is phenomenological determined by the user: it can enhance but can also destroy value.

Operant resources: customers’ and organizations’ We categorize the range of operant resources customers draw upon hen using SST as: . Cognitive; . Physical; and . Relational. Cognitive resources include familiarity with computers and technology generally, the ease of being able to re- access and navigate the SST and finding it easy to learn during the first use. I think I have forgotten my password so I feel less inclined to use it .. . I am sure I could find my password or I could get back on to it … UT I kind of avoid using it as much as possible (Male, ABA, 18-29). So I went to the touch terminal which, of course, is a very simple thing to use and the problem I have anyway when looking at icons often is understanding, it may sound weird to someone from a younger generation, understanding what is meant by the icon, and following the logic of it, but there’s possibly a generational thing there (Female, ABA, 45-64). Cost-saving was the key benefit when using online retailers to purchase a known item when not seeking a “shopping experience”.

Another benefit was accessing services from home without the need to suffer the weather. A male respondent (D, 30-44 years) uses an online site to buy clothes from an Italian designer and has the clothes shipped to the I-J because he is unable to purchase the brand in the I-J. Our research also reveals the potential for SST to destroy customer value if not managed carefully. Choice appears to be critical: customers should still be able to opt for the conventional route rather than being forced to use SST.

Not all customers are willing to take on additional tasks or tasks that are integral to the service they are paying for so value perception may arise from choice rather than coercion. If I wanted to swipe food across a thing I’d work in a supermarket. I think it’s a bit irritating to do that yourself. I think that supermarkets should be employing people to check your food ND take your money and whatever … It’s Just much nicer having someone do it all for you because it’s a small service. Yes, I guess that’s it, it’s Just a small service that I just don’t feel like doing myself.

Just like, I wouldn’t want to clean my own hotel room. It’s the same sort of principle. I Just don’t think I should have to check-out my own food (Female, ABA, 18-29). Customers draw upon a range of people to assist them in finding out about and using SST: I do think there are some elderly people that find it very difficult but usually there’s another patient that goes and helps – not the receptionist! Female, ABA, 65 p ). No, Eve only Just started … Because one of my friends show me the website in the past two months (Male, D, 30-44). Very concerned about the increasing encroachment of this as people age, perhaps because I’m reaching a certain age very soon and my eyesight is already poor and so, if I don’t have my glasses and there are very small appliances like [my mobile phone]. Small computer screens and as I get less dexterous with my fingers it’s going to be very difficult for me to deal with this (Female, ABA, 45-64). This research identifies a range of managerial challenges for those involved in the sign, delivery and management of SST.

We now consider each element that needs to be managed to ensure that SST is implemented in ways that enhance, rather than destroy, value for customers and service providers. Almost all respondents commented specifically about the need for organizations to staff the self-service areas either to assist customers to learn the system, or to help when customers are unable to complete the service on their own: Eve never seen those machines unmanned. There’s always someone there hanging around – maybe creating more work. Although I suppose maybe only one person serves 2 or 3 of these heck-outs which saves some labor .. I think it’s a very boring Job for them because most of the time they’re Just standing there … Waiting to help someone (Female, ABA, 65 p ). Yeah. Because they know what they’re doing and they’ve got the cards that are necessary to override the machine, or whatever it is they use (Female, ABA, 18-29). Discussion of management challenges Adopting SST might be attractive to organizations seeking to do more with less, but it may reduce customer perceived value and increase organizational costs. SST effectively moves service production from the organization to the customer, increasing the customer co-production role.

Thus the operant resource moves from that which the organization directly manages (employees) to that which it does not (customers). While customers may appear to be a cheaper resource than employees, they are also harder to train and manage, and they can become ad hoc advisers to other customers. As partial employees, customers are unable to draw upon the same level of expertise and tacit knowledge that employees do when producing the service. In any event, customers are not all equally willing or able to take on tasks formerly performed by service employees.

Meanwhile, employees must take on new service roles to train and support customers especially when the technology fails. In this section we draw attention to the management challenges associated with managing value, the SST interface and the operant resources of customers as well as employees. Managing value Self-service technology must provide outcomes that customers value and consider commensurate with their copulation role. This might involve freeing up staff to perform other tasks that customers perceive to be more valuable.

Using SST to check into the doctor’s surgery seems acceptable if tenants receive enhanced service in other areas. Alternatively, Sets can provide value enhancement that becomes achievable when customers increase their copulation roles. Online banking is an exemplar of this approach, providing transactions than the traditional approach. Seeing your doctor at the appointed time also adds value. Customer perceived value may depend upon the ability of the service organization to “fulfill” customer-generated requests as competently as those generated by employees.

Sets that frustrate customers, or require the frequent intervention of employees to complete what should be simple tasks, should be voided. Increasing the copulation role without enhancing the value perception might be viewed by customers as value destruction (Frown et al. , 2010). As value is a subjective evaluation, it is persona context-specific. Customers may feel that the tasks they are required to perform are so intrinsic to the service provision that they are paying for the service they themselves are providing (for example self-scanning).

Not all customers are equally willing, or able, to take on additional tasks. Removing the choice of a face-to-face option may also destroy value for those who feel forced to use SST. Self-scanning, within supermarkets, is an example of SST that customers might use sometimes, and avoid at other times, dependent 7 Operand resources: customers’ and organizations’ The operand resources that customers require are generally limited to having bank accounts and credit/debit cards along with access to computer and the internet.

The main operand resource in self-service provision is the SST provided by the organization upon which the operant resources of customers and staff are brought to bear. The design of the technology needs to take account of the operant resources of those that will be using the system: he knowledge and skills required to use the system and how they will be gained. Successful SST will need to draw upon and codify the tacit knowledge vested within service staff.

Tacit knowledge will then become vested in customers as they develop their ability to access and use the SST. Resource integration If SST is adopted to do more with less, to what extent does it achieve a reduction in employee resources? Respondents frequently mention a need for staff assistance to perform the self- service tasks beyond the initial learning process. SST has created an additional employee role of assisting self-scanners and moved employee resource from one task to another within the new SST-driven resource integration process.

Yes, there’s a sort of line of people looking around for guidance so it does seem to be a pretty universal thing. Nobody seems to be able to work out how to use it. If all your items have a bar code and you didn’t have a “bag for life” it would be relatively simple to do, manageable, but obviously that’s quite often not the case. Lots of people buy loose fruit and things that don’t have a brocade in which case there is a problem. Most people nowadays use a bag for life too so, most people do seem to have difficulties.